You know what’s funny? That word has such a stigma attached to it. Sobriety. Like it’s a facial deformity that gets you turned away from the club. It’s always present, you’re always aware, and even though it’s not top of mind, it’s an ever-present attachment.
The moment you tell people that you don’t drink anymore – or a bastardization of that theme, but I’ll cover that in a second – they give you this look of, really? You? And then they shirk away just a bit, or drop their chin ever so slightly to look at anything but your face, and catch themselves.
“That’s really cool! Good for you. What prompted this? Health reasons?”
I usually agree. Health Reasons.
It’s only been four months since I quit drinking for good. I’m easing my friends into it. “That’s all you; I’m not drinking for a really long time, so have at it,” has been my go-to phrase lately. I know I’m being a bit deceitful because while it’s technically true, it’s not up-front-and-clear, and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.
I had a really hard time with it in Japan. Nobody knew, of course, but I did. From the moment we got on the plane – free beer! – to the moment I stepped onto the jet bridge from the return flight, I was being pulled in ways I didn’t like at all. Oddly enough, when I bought a couple bottles of sake as gifts – one for a friend, another for a co-worker who saved my ass right before we left – I wasn’t even remotely bothered: I didn’t have that Constantine moment where I was gonna crack open a bottle and drown in it, which is both unsurprising and a litmus test relative to my mental state and determination. Those are good things. But even while I took extra special care to make sure that I wasn’t drinking – the last night in an Izakaya with Bee’s homies comes to mind – it was still present. More than I expected.
I’ve been plowing through a bunch of positive life changes lately, every single one of them a tough yet uplifting transition. Ivonne shared with me a few things that I didn’t know – perspectives and viewpoints that were punches to the gut, yes, but things I needed to hear – about my drinking habits, things that will stick with me like the story of the old woman licking the vodka from the tile of her kitchen floor. I need those things to stick with me.
Because I think I’ve figured out that this process is different this time because it’s permanent. Every other time I’ve ‘quit drinking’ I knew in my heart that I was going to be back at it, be it months or years later. I was going to try to control it, control myself with it in me, and I thought that by learning hard lessons, I could catapult those into positive behaviors while being able to keep what I want. The ultimate selfishness, really. Sometimes it’s hard not to think that way again.
This time – in this moment, recently – it’s been hard. Not hard in that I’m-going-to-go-get-the-half-bottle-of-tequila-still-in-my-cabinet hard, but in a very real, this-is-truly-not-part-of-my-life-anymore hard. Like a legit breakup.
So, I wanted to talk about it here because I’m using this space for positivity, now, and for accountability. I realized recently that I have so much more to be thankful for than not, and even though I got to this particular party pretty late – after leaving a wake of destruction behind me – I’ve also understood that most people who get to this point have done the same thing. And as I forgive myself, I’m being given the opportunity to repair and make things stronger. Not everyone is given that chance.
So anyway. I’m marking the four month milestone to acknowledge the difficulty and how far I have yet to go, sure, but to appreciate where I am now, ’cause I’ve done some good work with much more to come.
- Not gonna lie, I’m really happy to be home. My mom asked if Japan was a place I could live, and I know I could, sure, but this is home and it always will be. There’s a reason why I pined for San Diego all those years I was away. Of course, visiting places, being away for a while makes you long to return – and I took it for granted once. Never doing that again.
- I’m thankful that I learned a very valuable lesson tonight: I suck at seasoning shit in a pressure cooker. The fucking pot roast I cooked tonight tasted like a Shawshank Special, and I’ve got a Broccoli Beef Chinese dish on the horizon. That better fucking work, or I’m going to… be grateful that I have something to eat, won’t I, JC? That’s right.
- I’m thankful for Trader Joes at 9:00 AM. That shit is fucking tight.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to get back on the physical activity horse with a bit of yoga tomorrow morning. I’ve gotta get back in the habit – with additional instances – to start seeing more results. Believe it or not, I’ve got joining a gym in my head. I’m pretty close. Glad that I can say that, too.
- I’m thankful for my cats. Dude, these michos are something else. Gomez has been all up on my shit today and Judas finally figured out I was home during that hour of non-stop-headbutting. Pinche mujer. Sometimes I feel that they didn’t bond with me that much, and when I’m the only one around, they’ll take what they can get… but I feel the love. It’s pretty rad.
- I’m grateful for clean clothes, although I haven’t folded them yet. Tomorrow.
- Oh, I’m super stoked that I found someone that can fix my headphones; gonna see if I can drop those off tomorrow to get them fixed.
- I’m super glad that I had a quick opportunity to FaceTime with Ivonne and Reza today. I miss their faces.
- And finally tonight, I’m grateful for what I hope with all fibers of being will be a good night’s sleep. I’m going to accentuate nature’s process in a few ways to ensure said slumber, and yes: It’s gonna be fucking taaaaasty.
- I’m sitting here alone in the Narita airport grateful that I’m sitting at the gate an hour from getting off the ground. Travel days are always long – even longer when you’re trying to get home – but I’m glad I’m here, resting, and ready for … inaction? 10 hours worth anyway. Works for me.
- I’m terribly sad that I’m not sitting here with Ivonne and Reza, but I’m increasingly thankful that they get to spend an extra week with family. Jealous? No, ’cause if I’m honest, I’m ready to go home, but I’m thankful that Ivonne gets to spend more time with her sister. To see the two of them together is indescribable; Bee is phenomenal at reminding Ivonne of what’s important outside of the drawers of her heart, while Ivonne brings Bee a reminder of the world outside the village. It’s a beautiful sisterly dance and it makes me happier to know that she’s going to be with her again in December, even under trying circumstances.
- I’m leaving here knowing, once again, that we need to be here much more often, and I’m thankful that I feel right at home on the other side of the world.
- I’m grateful that Ivonne and Reza took the time to see me off at the train station, today. I didn’t expect them to go all the way to the Shinagawa, let alone Ivonne helping me with the bags onto the train. They stood on the platform as the train rolled away and left my heart with them, but I’m thankful knowing that she has it. It’s in good hands.
- Finally, I haven’t put it down on paper, but putting feelings into words has been very hard for me lately. This isn’t the norm. But I’ve been trying to stop and be observant, pay attention, listen and understand, notice the way things make me feel rather than simply seeing them as items around me, and because of that, I’m seeing a shift in how I process the things around me, especially the words, tones, phrases, and inflections of the voices of the people I hold most dear. Instead of expectations, understanding grows. It’s hard. But it’s working. I’m thankful for that.
- Ok, now finally: Coincidence? I don’t think so. But this opened something in me. She did this at the Meiji shrine. I wasn’t there. For this, there are no words. It’s not that I can’t find them: There simply aren’t any.
- My last night in Japan. I’m thankful for having been here at all, let alone with my girls. I’ve throughly enjoyed every moment with them – even the ones that could have gone better. I’d rather have the uncomfortable moments than none at all.
- I’m thankful that I’m hearing the jet lag going home is easier to manage, but I’m not so sure about that. We’ll see, won’t we?
- While I’m going to miss Ivonne while I’m gone, I’m happy that she’s going to get some good quality time with her sister without me being all up in her shit. Sure, we like each other’s company but breathing room is good. I’m glad we’ll be able to have that space and still be able to connect when she comes home herself.
- I’m thankful that this trip happened when it did. It couldn’t have come at a better time of need. I tend to put on my blinders and see the trappings in front of me without getting a clear view of what’s bigger and more important and, frankly, more fulfilling. Those small moments in between sentences, the touch of a finger in a moment of weakness, the silence of longing when you need just a bit more – these things take on more meaning when viewed outside the prism of our daily lives.
- I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to go home and keep working. I’ve been well-meaning, but I’ve missed many marks. I intend to take better aim.
- Finally, tonight, I’m thankful that she walked in the room and sat down next to me, leaned back, let me support her, let me hold her, let me just be there with friends and family and ourselves. I love her immensely, and I’m grateful that she lets me.
- This is the second time in three trips that Ivonne and I have had the opportunity to wander around an alien city in the pouring rain. To be fair, our first sojourn in Kyoto wasn’t necessarily flooding on a biblical scale mind you, but Yokohama’s Chinatown was the most rain we’ve been out and about in since being here. I’m extremely thankful for this pattern emerging.
- I’m grateful for disappointments turned to surprises. The capricious brilliance of fish jumping in the bay, the majesty of the Yokohama Landmark Tower soaked with fog and night, to the elongated dignity of the Yokohama train station, and finally the whimsical wonder on Ivonne’s face in the Miyazaki store: These things made baseball seem like a trifle. These were the creations of immediate intimacy, things we’ll remember with fondness, together. I’m so thankful for being afforded that opportunity.
- I’m thankful that my lady found us some of the best sushi we’ve ever had. Period. And to think it came from a rotation joint.
- I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a few days alone with Ivonne in Kyoto by ourselves, and that Bee was more than willing to watch Reza for us. To have that kind of amazing family – not only to entertain and host – but to trust with our only child is a gift to be celebrated.
- To see and feel and witness one of the most recognizable and transcendent places in the world was a treasure, even more so because it was even more special to her.
- I’m thankful that she was able to find the god damned waffle hut at the Kyoto train station. They didn’t taste as wonderful as I remember, but the look on her face was better than I could have hoped for.
- I’m thankful that I can recognize the work I’ve put in when I see pictures of myself now. I’m not close to where I need to be, but I’m on my path, and I can appreciate that. It’s a start.
- She reached for me today. A lot, even when she knew I was down. I couldn’t ask for more.
- I’m thankful that today wasn’t as ass-blistering hot as it was a few days ago. Damn, that shit was unholy and I’m still scarred.
- We had an incredible day in Tokyo today; I’m thankful that we had a bit of time between trains to chill, get some snacks, and be where we needed to be without running, pushing, pulling, biting, slapping or shitting ourselves.
- I’m grateful that our daughter has pretty decent fashion sense, despite this incessant need for high heels and a new penchant for – fuck – fishnets.
- I’m thankful that I have the financial ability to travel the world. Ivonne and I had a cool discussion today about whether we would still travel places if we hadn’t ended up together. I know I would have gone places, sure, but I can’t imagine not going places with her. Sure, I plan on going to Iceland one day soon, and I may very well go alone, but she’s still the author of a sphere of influence that continually expands to fit my wanderlusts.
- I’m thankful that I can walk into a ramen shop where nobody speaks English and get some tasty motherfucking taste. Whoever invented picture menus needs a motherfucking Nobel Prize.
- I’m grateful for these two women in my life. I have taken them both for granted in so many ways and I’m beyond thankful that they love me still.
- I’m grateful for the way Ivonne looks at me in those moments when we are only us again.
- But most of all tonight, I am beyond grateful for her touch, her contact, the simple grasping of a finger on a busy holiday train fighting its way through humidity that acts like tar to the thrashing of enthusiasm.
- We spent the most amazing day together today, grocery shopping, buying kitschy souvenirs, and rocking some v delicious ramen. That broth tho.
- The weather was far more palatable today. Compared to yesterday? Damn.
- I’m super grateful for the person Reza is becoming. She’s a kid, but she’s a good kid and she’s growing up to be an amazing person.
- Bee, Jun and the kids have been outstanding hosts. I know it puts a lot of pressure on them to host all of us, but they’re doing it with love, openness, and gratitude of their own. You can see how much Bee enjoys simply having her sister around, and vice versa – Ivonne simply stops and takes in that familial bond; it’s a joy to see.
- I’m thankful that I have the financial ability to walk into a store and practically buy anything that I could want. That’s simply being honest.
- I can’t put into words how amazing yesterday’s experience at Saijoji Temple. That’ll be a whole different journal entry of its own right, but to have been there at the right time to take in that ceremony – it was more moving than I realized.
- I’m so very thankful for Ivonne for her patience with me a few days ago. Naked Onsen Fight wasn’t one of my finer moments, but I’m supremely thankful that we can laugh about it now.
- Speaking of Ivonne: Yeah. She’s… she’s wonderful. I’m so very grateful for her choice to spend today with me.
- Lastly, for today, I’m grateful for the walk I took today, in the rain, by the river, with music and the mountains. It was exactly what I needed.
My body is shrinking. I can see it, feel it.
My confidence is growing. I can feel that, too.
My work is perpetual, yet it already feels worthwhile – and my heart?
My heart is hopeful. And ready.
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